Making Introductions, Hajimemashite Kobayashi

When I first met Vancouver Whitecaps' latest acquisition, Kobayashi Daigo, I said "Hajimemashite, Christopher Vose desu," and attempted to bow at a 30 degree angle, although I probably only achieved 15 degrees.

His face immediately lit up. With a smile, he asked in English if I spoke Japanese. Alas, much like Matt Watson, watashi wa nihongo ga sukoshi shika hanasemasu. But now I have added incentive to take it up once more. He speaks English very well, admitting that "I already love Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city. I look forward to giving my all to help this club continue to grow and succeed."

Because Japanese names start with the surname and end with the given, in the coming weeks, months, and years, you will sometimes see it written as Kobayashi Daigo, and sometimes as Daigo Kobayashi. Both are acceptable. It’s the same as Lee Young-Pyo and Young-Pyo Lee.

Kobayashi Daigo takes in his first Vancuver Whitecaps FC training session at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex on 24 January 2013.

Kobayashi joins fellow countryman Jun Marques Davidson, who last year made the transition from the J. League’s second division. Although he said that “I don’t need a translator”, and obviously feels confident in his English, Davidson translated some of his comments in the hopes of garnering more nuance. Through Jun, he said “I’m very excited to play. I’m happy to play for the Whitecaps. I love to contribute, scoring goals, and giving assists. I’m strongest in front of goal, making assists, and yeah, just making a difference in the game.”

For his part, Davidson is pleased as punch to have a compatriot in the squad. For too long, others such as Rochat, Hassli, Chiumiento, Akloul, and Le Toux; Salgado, Thorrington, Bonjour, and Klazura; Sanvezzo, Ulisses, and Araujo; or Robson and Miller have had a familiar voice in the locker room. Now it’s time for Jun; and not just a close friend “encouraged” to learn Japanese, like Matt Watson, but one officially stamped: Made in Japan.

But he’s not been brought in just to make Jun smile. Davidson expects great things from the attacking midfielder, “I’m excited, but everyone should be excited to see him play. He can make the difference in the game. He can kick free kicks and corner kicks with great accuracy. He can assist and score goals. I’m sure everyone will love how he plays. He’s just a pure entertainer and probably the most technical guy in the league.” Those are strong words from one so soft spoken. “He can definitely control the game. Hopefully through this camp, everyone will get to know him; he fits in the team right away; and for the best.”

Kobayashi Daigo dons the blue and whit of Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Burnaby 8 Rinks on 28 January 2013.

Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie added, "We’re really pleased that Daigo is going to be joining us. He’s technically very gifted and he’s got an excellent final pass. He can create goals for us and he’s got a lot to prove. Those are the type of players we want in our squad."

Jake DeClute, an assistant coach and scouting coordinator added, "We’re really excited to have him. He’s a creative, attacking player. He’s got really good vision. He can not only create for others, but he can create for himself. He’s very, very skillful, and super technical. It seems like his best role would be underneath the striker, but he can play in a lot of different spots. Speaking to his coach, and all these different things, they just raved about him. He’s got a super attitude, he’s a great worker. We’re just really excited to add that element to our team."

Although Martin Rennie said he doesn’t expect Kobayashi to play in their friendly against New England Revolution in Casa Grande on Tuesday, it’s all but certain that he’ll play against Houston Dynamo in Tuscon this Saturday.